Jay Z called the war on drugs an "epic fail" in a compelling new op-ed video for The New York Times. The nearly four-minute clip is narrated by the music legend and mogul, 45, and features artwork by Molly Crabapple.
The "Empire State of Mind" rapper, who was a drug dealer before making it big, detailed how the war on drugs (which President Richard Nixon declared in 1971) has mainly affected African Americans and Latinos.
“Judges' hands were tied by tough-on-crime laws, and they were forced to hand out mandatory life sentences for simple possession and low-level drug sales. My home state of New York started this with Rockefeller Laws. Then the feds made distinctions from people who sold powder cocaine and crack cocaine, even though they were the same drug. The only difference is how you take it," he says in the video.
"Even though white people used the sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people that went to prison. The media ignore actual data to this day," he adds. "Crack is still talked about as a black problem. The NYPD raided our Brooklyn neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke in impunity."
Jay Z went on to discuss how the war on drugs has caused a drastic increase in the prison population among minorities. Back in 1971, around 200,000 Latinos and African Americans were locked up for drug arrests compared to 2 million today.
"Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain, and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude. In the 1990s, incarceration rates went up. Today, we imprison more people than any other country in the world — China, Russia, Iran, Cuba. All countries we consider autocratic and oppressive," he says. "Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared the so-called war in 1971. Forty-five years later, it's time to rethink our policies and laws."
Per the NYT, the concept for the project was created last year when filmmaker Dream Hampton decided to explore the contradiction that author Michelle Alexander raised: "Why were white men poised to get rich doing the very same thing that African American boys and men had long been going to prison for?" (Hampton cowrote Jay Z's 2010 book Decoded.)
To do so, Hampton contacted the Drug Policy Alliance about working with Revolve Impact. The social impact agency tries to engage with communities by interlinking art and culture.
Watch the video above.
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